Squiz Today / 17 March 2021
Squiz Today – Wednesday, 17 March
Is Tesla boss Elon Musk’s new official title, replacing the way too conventional ‘chief executive officer’ mantle. No one knows what it means…
PAPUA NEW GUINEA IN THE GRIP OF COVID
A coronavirus “catastrophe” has hit our northern neighbour with a wave of infections overwhelming its health system. Papua New Guinea's PM James Marape says that the surge in cases means that "about one person to 3 or 4" has the virus - aka 2.25-3 million people. With just 55,000 tests administered since the pandemic began until the start of March, the outbreak's scale has not been nailed down. But whatever the numbers are, Marape says it’s "quite staggering", and he’s worried that the country “won't be able to sustain it." Yesterday, he announced that the nation will be asked to isolate, but it would not be a “stiff lockdown” with the details to be announced today.
BACK IT UP A BIT...
Until early this year, PNG had low numbers of reported cases of COVID. Towards the end of January, there had been 850 verified cases since the start of the pandemic and 9 deaths. One proviso: officials from the World Health Organisation noted that low rates of testing in many parts of the country make it hard to know what’s happened across the year in PNG. But what it does know is that new infections took off in February. Add fears about recent ‘superspreader' events, including the recent memorial services for ‘father of the nation’ Sir Michael Somare, and the situation is urgent. On Monday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that the state’s officials had helped out with some testing, and 250 out of 500 came back positive. And with PNG “on the doorstep of the Torres Strait and Queensland,” she wanted to know what the Morrison Government is doing to help.
AND IS OZ HELPING?
We are. There's $144 million for a first round of vaccines and $60 million for personal protective equipment, testing, support for health clinics and technical advice. Another 3-person team of health specialists will go to Port Moresby to help with infection control and management of the emergency. On top of that, Foreign Minister Marise Payne yesterday said officials are in contact with the PNG Government and flagged that there will be further announcements of more support. Marape would like fast-tracked vaccines for health workers to "defend them from being exposed to COVID-19" - something Australia is expected to do. That call has been echoed by aid groups who say the situation is "dire".
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PLUGGING THE PORTER GAPS
Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is expected to be back at work on 31 March after taking mental health leave in the wake of historical rape accusations, will have a couple of his duties taken off his plate when he returns. His defamation proceedings against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan will see his oversight of Federal Court matters and anything relating to the national broadcaster suspended. PM Scott Morrison said that’s appropriate “to avoid any perception of conflicts of interest that may arise”. Reports say Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker is likely to take on some of the responsibility. Also helping out on Porter’s other portfolio of industrial relations is Employment Minister Michaelia Cash… She’s haggling with crossbench Senators over amendments to the government’s legislation that the Coalition hopes to get through the Parliament this week.
“DON’T CAUSE A STINK”
That’s what the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said to the Biden administration days out from a visit to the region by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. Kim Yo Jong's full quote is "If it wants to sleep in peace for the coming 4 years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step." A glass-half-full interpretation is that it’s sorta kinda the first time the Hermit Kingdom has publicly acknowledged that America has new leadership. And glass-half-empty: American officials have been trying for weeks to make diplomatic contact with Kim, and that’s where they've landed… Getting Team Kim's goat is upcoming US-South Korean military exercises - a perennial source of tension. Biden's team is also undertaking a policy review of America's approach to dealing with North Korea post-Trump. That’s expected to conclude next month.
FACEBOOK PAYS UP
After weeks of headline-making/legislatively challenging negotiations, Facebook has struck content deals with Australia’s two largest media companies - News Corp and Nine Entertainment. News Corp has signed a multimillion-dollar deal that will see Facebook pay for its news articles posted to the platform, while Nine has signed a letter of intent with the tech giant. It follows months of negotiations that have pushed the tech giant to strike commercial deals with Australia's large news outlets to avoid government-mandated deals under the new media bargaining code. Facebook has also inked a deal with Seven West Media, and negotiations are said to be ongoing with The Guardian and the ABC. The dust might be settling on this battle royale, but Facebook could be facing a whole new issue with more Aussies saying they’re bored… #SquizShortcuts
ALIBABA TO SPLIT UP
E-commerce giant Alibaba has been in the Chinese Government’s sights for some months, which is why analysts weren’t surprised to hear that it’s been ordered by officials to sell off its media assets in a government effort to curb the company’s influence. In November, Chinese regulators stopped a $34bn stock market listing by Ant Group, massive Alibaba subsidiary for online payments. A month later, its regulators opened an investigation into the company's business practices citing anti-competitive practices. And Alibaba's founder/former CEO Jack Ma went MIA. Now China has reportedly told the tech giant it needs to sell Twitter-like social media platform Weibo, and the South China Morning Post. Chinese officials want to give the company less sway over public opinion, reports say. #SquizShortcuts
PHILIP HEADS HOME AFTER 4-WEEK HOSPITAL STAY
An infection and then “a successful procedure for a pre-existing condition” (aka heart surgery) saw the Duke of Edinburgh laid up for 28 days, but he’s on the mend and has returned to Windsor Castle. There were concerns for the 99yo as he endured his longest ever hospital stay. Now, he can get on with planning his 100th birthday celebrations on 10 June. Not a lot has happened while he was out of circulation - just his grandson Prince Harry and wife Meghan levelling racism claims against a member of the family as the Palace accused the Duchess of bullying… As for the LA branch of the Royal family, US morning show host/Oprah’s bestie Gayle King says she’d spoken to the Sussexes and was told discussions between Harry, William and Charles, were "not productive," but they were glad talks had started.
APROPOS OF NOTHING
As we hit Hump Day, how would you feel if it was actually the start of the week’s 2nd half? If your answer is ‘bring it’, you should know that Spain’s checking out a 4-day week…
Tinder’s going to start providing access to background checks on users' prospective love interests. Kicking off in the US later this year, the dating company has teamed up with a company called Garbo to access public records information. And we assume the service they provide is better than their business name suggests…
Ever wondered what a hip-hop superstar in Mongolia looks/sounds like? Us neither, but here you go.
SQUIZ THE DAY
12.30pm (AEDT) - Australia's Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley addresses the National Press Club - Canberra
2.14pm (AEDT) - Start of round 10 of the America’s Cup - a win for Team New Zealand in one of the 2 rounds today will see it claim the series win - Auckland
To be sure, to be sure, it’s St Patrick’s Day
Dutch General Election
Birthdays for actor Kurt Russell (1951), musician Billy Corgan (1967), and musician Grimes (1988)
• the deaths of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (180) and Saint Patrick (461)
• Edward the Black Prince being made Duke of Cornwall, the first Duchy made in England (1337)
• the patenting of the rubber band and self-raising flour (1845)
• Albert Einstein finishing his scientific paper detailing his Quantum Theory of Light, one of the foundations of modern physics (1905)
• the birthdays of motorcycle inventor Gottlieb Daimler (1834), Nat King Cole (1919), fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969)
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